This week the Clinton Global Initiative held its final Annual Meeting. CGI brings together leaders from business, government, foundations, and NGOs to improve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including increasing opportunities for women and girls worldwide.
CGI examines its work through the lens of gender, which is where Renée Joslyn comes in. Joslyn is director of girls and women integration at CGI.
“We promote education and workforce development among girls as part of our platform,” Joslyn says. “The commitments made by CGI members often focus on Africa, India, and Latin America, where girls don’t have the same access to educational opportunity.”
But even in the U.S. girls are affected in ways that have to do with gender—which is why domestic commitments are also in CGI’s portfolio. “Here, in communities of color and in impoverished communities, if a single mom has a daughter, she’ll be the one expected to stay home and take care of the kids while Mom works an extra shift,” Joslyn says. “So it’s not just making sure that quality education is available but that girls have access.”
Commitments to Action
Among the 3,600 Commitments to Action—commitments organizations have made to turn their good ideas into actionable plans—made through CGI so far, hundreds address education, allowing more than 52 million children to now have access to better opportunities to learn.
Joslyn noted one commitment, Charge, which has 40 partners—including No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project—that are aligning efforts in regions around the world to improve girls’ access to education.
“That also means working with parents, because as long as there’s water to be fetched, wood to be brought in, even farming chores to be done, it’s less likely that girls will be allowed access.”
Another Commitment to Action Joslyn mentioned involves ScaleAfrica, which is building bathrooms for girls in schools in Zambia.
“Where there are no facilities for girls, no way for them to lock the bathroom door, no infrastructure to support them, they’re not going to go to school.”
The Feminization of Poverty
Is it gender that reduces access to education for girls, or poverty? Joslyn says, “It’s the feminization of poverty. Yes, it’s poverty—but when poor parents have a choice, they never prioritize the girl, so it isn’t just poverty.”
That’s why CGI’s work is looked at through a gender lens. “Girls and women are 51% of the population, so there isn’t any topic area that girls and women shouldn’t be included in.” It has to be intentional, Joslyn says, because “when you don’t, everything skews male.”
“We’re not saying that everything has to be 50% female, but if you don’t look at it the needs of women do not get addressed.” Joslyn brings up menstruation. The need for a bathroom that locks is important to a woman during her cycle. Even the lack of access to sanitary pads can be a barrier for girls.
Whether addressing poverty, education, or climate change, members of the CGI community include the perspectives and needs of girls and women in their solutions. Its embrace of the gender lens will likely be one of the most enduring features of the CGI legacy.
For more information about CGI, visit its website.